Tulsa's trash cart, contract decisions loom
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2012
1/26/12 at 8:43 PM
Read more about Tulsa’s planned trash service changes.
Tulsa's next trash and recycling hauler could be a mega waste corporation or a small, local firm.
The City Council's vote Thursday on whether to allow the trash board to finance $14.5 million worth of carts apparently also will determine who is awarded the hauling contract.
The Tulsa World's analysis of the bids from the six companies vying for the contract indicates that the lowest offer came from NeWSolutions - created by a third of the haulers from Tulsa Refuse Inc., the consortium that has conducted the city's trash service for the past 32 years.
But NeWSolutions did not submit a proposal providing the carts, hoping instead that the trash board would provide them.
The lowest bidders that included carts in their offers appear to be Waste Management and Republic Services, the No. 1 and No. 2 largest waste companies in the United States.
The trash board - formally known as the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy - has made the case that the 250,000 carts needed for the new volume-based service can be bought millions of dollars cheaper by the city than by a hauler because of its tax-exempt status.
City spokeswoman Liz Hunt, who works with the board, said Thursday will be a day of many decisions.
"The council vote authorizing TARE to possibly purchase the carts is an important step in moving this process forward," she said.
TARE has set a noon Thursday meeting to award potentially four contracts: one for recycling processing and one for the recovery of energy, with which it can proceed easily, as well as one for hauling and one for the board's purchase of carts. It needs answers from councilors before it can make those two decisions.
But the council's discussion meeting isn't until 3 p.m. Thursday, and a vote won't take place until its 6 p.m. regular meeting.
How the day will play out is unknown, except that the board, seven months behind schedule, is eager to move beyond the awarding of contracts, which are supposed to go into effect July 1, and focus on the transition.
If delays push the process past Feb. 1, a stop-gap trash program likely would be implemented because there wouldn't be enough time to have the carts assembled and delivered and get the new hauler ready.
"Our commitment to Tulsa citizens is to maintain continuous trash collection service, despite any setbacks or delays we may experience," Hunt said.
Not having carts is not an option, officials have said, because the contracts would have to be completely rebid.
Service scenarios: While no exact rates for the new system have been established because no contracts have been awarded, the trash board has in the past provided the council with potential rate ranges.
More recently, Councilor Phil Lakin asked the board to prepare several scenarios to help councilors explain to residents - who have different sizes of families and are expected to opt for different levels of service - how much the new system will cost them.
Each household will be issued two carts: one for trash and one for recycling. Three different sizes of trash carts will be available, with smaller rates for the smaller carts.
Recycling will be voluntary but included in the service. To throw away more than fits in the trash cart would cost more.
Green waste and bulky waste will be picked up at extra costs under separate programs.
In coming up with various scenarios this week, TARE officials based them on a 75 cent charge per green waste bag collected and a $10 charge for a bulky waste collection.
The proposed waste and recycling charge includes the hauler's fee, plus a variety of fees for things such as dead animal pickup, illegal dumping cleanup and other services.
Councilors were cautioned that the rates assume that the council will allow the board rather than the hauler to finance the carts.
The nine scenarios created are being published in a graphic accompanying this Tulsa World article.
Optional recycling: In a council committee meeting this week, Councilor Skip Steele said he thinks that rather than include recycling in the cost for everyone, whether an individual wants to participate or not, it should be an opt-in program.
That would save potentially half of the $14.5 million cart cost because half as many carts would have to be ordered, he said.
"I think recycling should be taken out of the base rate," Steele said, noting that it would take dollars off the possible rates, as well.
Steele said the city should be using a "carrot, not a stick" to encourage people to recycle. Those who do could recycle could realize credits on their bill for the recyclables that the city is able to sell.
"They could reap the rewards," he said.
But city staff member Eric Lee said bidders submitted their proposals based on the volume of recycling that would be collected and processed.
What it could cost
Exact rates for Tulsa's new volume-based trash system have not been determined. However, the trash board has come up with projected rate scenarios to help city councilors explain to residents how much people with different sizes of families and who opt for different levels of service could end up paying. Page A7
What it could cost you
A comparison of current trash
costs vs. estimates for what
the new service proposal will
cost a home based on family
size, amount of trash generated
(determined by water
usage), recycling, amount of
yard waste and other services.
Prop. rate: Proposed rate
TRI area: Currently most
of city, serviced by private
NWQ: Northwest quadrant of
Tulsa, serviced by city
Original Print Headline: Trash cart decision looms
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Vehicles pass by trash bags that were blown over by wind. A decision if Tulsans will have carts to put their trash in will be made soon. Tulsa World file